Byline: Jim Mateja
Same old name, but not the same old look.
The Toyota Solara coupe has undergone a design and engineering remake for `04 and with it, an obvious focus on providing it with a personality catering more to youth and the youthful and less to their parents.
The staid 3-liter, 198-h.p. V-6 that delivered 212 foot-pounds of torque has been replaced with a much more muscular, 3.3-liter, 225-h.p. V-6 boasting 240 foot-pounds of torque for livelier launches as well as far quicker response to pedal input when you want to pass or merge.
It's the same 3.3-liter offered in the Camry sedan (Solara is built off the Camry platform) and Highlander sport-utility vehicle.
The new Solara also is a little longer, wider and taller for a better stance and the suspension has been tweaked to provide smoother ride and more predictable performance handling for those who drive a bit more aggressively.
But while longer, it looks shorter. The old model had a slight wedge shape with a sloping front end; the new one is arc-shaped, which leaves the perception it is smaller. A few years back Ford redesigned the Taurus with dramatically rounded body panels and rear-end treatment, and while it, too, was larger, it looked smaller.
If you thought the look of the old Solara was meek and mild, you are going to be wildly excited with the redesign and its curves and fashionable jewel-like lamps front and rear and a back end that looks a tad like the SC430 from Lexus.
But, if you liked the look of the old model, as we did, you are going to be sadly disappointed with the new design and its more rounded body panels and somewhat bulbous tail end.
You'll also find that the arc-shaped roofline means those designated to ride in back are going to have a tough time finding room to position the melon without having it bump the ceiling.
Toyota's goal was for Solara to offer …